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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Goolrookh Gupta Is Fighting For Religious Rights Of Parsi Women Who Had An Inter-Caste Marriage

  • IWB Post
  •  February 12, 2018

In 1991, Goolrookh Conductor, a Parsi,  married Manipal Gupta under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, so as to continue to practice her Zoroastrian faith after marriage. But when in 2009, two of her childhood friends, who had also married outside their community, were stopped from attending their mothers’ funeral, Goolrookh decided to stand up against this discrimination.

She moved a PIL in the Gujarat High Court in 2009 to make sure that her right to attend her parents’ funeral rites was not scrapped just because she married a Non-Parsi. “When I raised the issue, Sam Chothia, the present head of the Valsad Parsi Anjuman (VPA), said allowances would be made for me. But I felt why only me? Is it because I was a trustee’s daughter? Everyone should be allowed to enter,” said Goolrookh. “So I went to court. I have the means, I thought I must fight for those who can’t,” she said.

Goolrookh Gupta

Goolrookh Contractor wed Mahipal Gupta under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, in 1991. Image source

“Children of women like me who marry non-Parsis are out… they are not considered Parsis,” she added. But if the men of the community wed a non-Parsi, his children would still be considered Parsi courtesy of the 100-year-old Davar and Beamon judgment where Parsi is defined as the progeny of a Parsi man and his spouse will not be allowed to enter the temple. So, the rules only suppress the women, eh?

“If a Parsi girl marries a non-Parsi under the SMA she has all the rights to continue her religion, attend the holiest of our fire temples and attend funeral ceremonies – and these, in any case, have been in place in the community…. Goolrookh and other women were allowed to do so by the earlier VPA till this new board of trustees came along. This particular board stopped it, not the community,” said Khurshed Dastoor, who is a high priest of the Parsi community and the Zoroastrian representative on the National Commission for Minorities.

Goolrookh Gupta

Adi and Dinaz Contractor, Goolrookh’s parents at their in residence in Valsad, Gujarat. Image source

Goolrookh is one of the many Parsi women who has married outside their community and fail to understand the gender-based discrimination. Entrepreneur Smita Godrej Crishna, industrialist Jamshyd Godrej’s sister, who also married a Non-Parsi, is especially concerned about the dwindling population of people practicing Parsi as a religion.

“No Zoroastrian scripture distinguishes between men and women. But when children see their mother discriminated against, their own understanding of the religion becomes biased and they never feel a connection with the religion, that, in fact, is a very enlightened one,” said Godrej. “We are losing precious children this way. If the community wants to be narrow, it’s a pity. But the religion should not die out,” she added.

As for Goolrookh, while her fight may have started out for her personal reasons, she is today the voice of many other women like her. “For me right is always right, wrong is wrong. At the heart of various Trusts’ attempts to put stumbling blocks, and not admit women in positions of authority such as is the case with VPA, or give them rights on a par with men is the fear that women will then demand control of Trusts. And by extension, control what is done with Trust property.”

H/T: Hindustan Times

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